In my yoga teacher training, I remember the first day we discussed the Yamas & Niyamas (Two of the 8 limbs of yoga). They are ethical guidelines that I think pretty much anyone can agree are worthy endeavors. Tell the truth, don’t steal, don’t live to excess, be content, have self-discipline. I was on board with this yoga way of life. It seemed pretty reasonable. However, I remember reading the last niyama, “Surrender,” and distinctively having the thought, “NEVER.”
I had quite a bit of resistance come up with this concept. I have always believed in a higher power, but the word “surrender” really rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t really understand what this concept would look like in my life. Would this mean that I would float around doing what anyone told me? Would I lose all power?Surrender felt like giving up on life, on dreams, on MY WAY. Surrender seemed like a weakness not a guideline to live by.
I would like to say that I left my training being able to fully surrender to divine force in my life, but I cannot say that truthfully. I am a bit better at “going with the flow” than I used to be. I still have those moments when things don’t go according to my convenient plan, and I’m shaking my fist at the sky. Damn you, Surrender!
Deborah Adele talks about how Surrender or Ishvara Pranidhana is like white water rafting. You have to paddle with the rapids. If you start trying to fight the waves, you will lose. You aren’t supposed to be at complete mercy of the rapids. Your skill and presence of mind is needed to work WITH the flow of water in order to navigate around danger. I can’t get angry at the river for not flowing the way I want or how I expected. I can only ride the wave.
It’s a nice notion. I agree with it. I can mentally understand it. There’s still that resistance though. My body feels nauseated, uneasy, and anxious. I had a plan for my life…my river, and we hit some rocks. I know that I will be okay. I think I even feel somewhere inside that this way will be better than what I had thought would happen. But I still have this physiological reaction that I can only describe for a lack of better words, as seasickness.
Swami Chetanananda says, “Ultimately there is nothing I can tell you about surrender except: Having nothing and wanting nothing; Not keeping score; Not trying to be richer; not being afraid of losing; Not being particularly interested in our own personalities; Choosing to be happy; no matter what happens to us. These are some of the clues. The rest we learn with practice and grace.”
Let’s keep practicing, friends.